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Graeme Max Neutze (1934–2000)

by Patrick Troy

The great achievements of Max Neutze, AO, BAgrSc(NZ), MAgrSc(NZ), DPhil(Oxf), FASSA, HonFRAPI, were linked strongly to his personal integrity and motivated by his faith and strong concern for the common good. The ANU and Australian society had the undivided attention and commitment of a remarkable man for more than 40 years.

Graeme Max Neutze was born in Geraldine, New Zealand. He was the eldest son of four children, born into a hard-working farming family that had struggled to survive the Depression. The family experience taught him essential values about concern for the less fortunate and a commitment to procedural justice, an aversion to waste and display, and a stoicism and determination which he retained all his life.

After graduating in Agricultural Science at Lincoln College he took up a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University in 1957 where he also won a Nuffield scholarship, enabling him to complete his doctorate in 1960.

His sense of frugality and predilection for understatement was reflected in the telegram he sent his parents: "Awarded Rhodes scholarship. Engaged". He had met Margaret (Peggy) Murray, a farmer's daughter, while in Waikato. They married in 1959.

Oxford, especially the scholars at Nuffield, introduced him to a new and exciting world. Under the influence of Colin Clark, one of his supervisors, he began to refocus on the economics of location. In responding to the challenges of scholars such as Sir John Hicks, Sir Donald McDougal, Ian Little, Dennis Munby and Max Hartwell, Max also explored the effects of institutions on economic processes.

In 1960 he took up a position as lecturer in agricultural economics in the Canberra University College. His departmental head, Heinz Arndt, encouraged him to explore the economics of decentralisation, which continued his interest in location and institutional structures and culminated in the book Economic Policy and the Size of Cities.

Noel Butlin of the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) took an interest in Max's work and encouraged him to apply for the position of head of the newly created Urban Research Unit, a position he was appointed to in October 1965. Before taking up the position in January 1967, Max spent a year at the Resources for the Future in Washington under Harvey Perloff, where he conducted the first major study of the suburban apartment boom.

From its inception the Urban Research Unit focused on the process of urban development in Australia with special concern for equity aspects of the operation of its cities. A primary objective of the Unit was the production of a literature on Australian cities. The fact that we now have a recognisably Australian literature on urban issues is a testament to Max.

In 1977 Max published Urban Development in Australia, devoted to Australia's urban growth, that summarised the work of the Unit. This is regarded as the standard work to which students in all the social science disciplines refer. Max regarded his subsequent companion book, Australian Urban Policy, published in 1978 as the more important work.

He was elected a Fellow in the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 1974 and appointed to the Chair in Urban Research in 1979. He was elected Honorary Fellow in the Royal Australian Planning Institute in 1983 and made an Officer in the Order of Australia in recognition of his contribution to research into Australian cities in 1994.

He never sought high office but was three times pressured to accept senior leadership responsibilities in the University at critical times — in 1980 as Director of the RSSS; in 1988 as acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor; and then in 1989 as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies. From 1984-87 he served on the Australian Research Grants Committee and in 1988-89 on the Australian Research Council.

In 1989, having been acting as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for most of the year, he was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the first Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies. He played an important role during discussions over the proposed amalgamation of the ANU with the University of Canberra and in the negotiations to bring the Institute of the Arts into the ANU. He served until 1993.

He returned to the Urban Research Program to reengage with urban issues, leading to his last major book, Funding Urban Services, in 1997.

Max was a very private man but he could not hide his distress or the concern and love for his wife Peggy during her long illness up to her death in 1994. Max's marriage to Marjorie in 1996 provided him with a renewed inspiration and drive.

His second passion was in his love for classical music—a love he shared with Marjorie and his daughter, Judy.

He had a great capacity for friendship and loyalty combined with a firm critical sense. He had a wicked, dry sense of humour. His friends and colleagues take solace in the knowledge that his influence will continue through his writing, the statistics he helped to construct, his students, the influence he had on colleagues both in Australia and overseas and on his contribution to public policy.

Max Neutze is survived by his children Stephen, Judy and Paul and by his wife, Marjorie.

Original publication

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Citation details

Patrick Troy, 'Neutze, Graeme Max (1934–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


8 April, 1934
Geraldine, New Zealand


19 October, 2000 (aged 66)

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